One hundred fifty years ago today, Giuseppe Verdi first mounted his opera La Forza del Destino ("The Force of Destiny") on a stage in St. Petersburg, Russia. Today, La Forza is considered one of Verdi's masterpieces, but it wasn't always that way. The story of Don Alvaro, whose love for the aristocratic Leonora incurs the wrath of her family, is violent and chaotic, and it flopped on its first run.
The world is full of love songs. Unrequited love, romantic and lustful love, poetic and sensual love — they're all more than covered. Plenty of tunes address betrayal and broken hearts, but actual relationship aren't so black-and-white. Confusing and captivating emotions lie just beneath the surface of even the simplest smitten love, and breakups are rarely as definitive as they're often portrayed in popular music.
When you reach a certain age, big life surprises tend to come few and far between, unless you're Harold Van Heuvelen. Van, as everyone calls him, has had a blockbuster week full of dreams fulfilled. The story of his dream starts more than 70 years ago, on Dec. 7, 1941.
Van Heuvelen enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor. He was posted to a base in New Orleans as an instructor for recruits. He spent the war stateside, training men who were being shipped out to Europe and the South Pacific.
The saxophonist Dayna Stephens, originally of the San Francisco Bay Area, has built up an impressive educational pedigree: Berkeley High, Berklee College of Music, the Thelonious Monk Institute's masters program. But he's really flourished by backing up greats like Kenny Barron and Idris Muhammad, and being a first-call player on both the East and West Coast. Blessed with a warm, enveloping tone, he's made two records as a bandleader, including this year's Today Is Tomorrow.
Pianist, composer and teacher Pete Malinverni is a multifaceted player known for his attention to melody and delicate phrasing. Spiritual influences radiate throughout his arrangement of "Deep River," and Malinverni and host Marian McPartland end a delightful hour as they join together in a performance of the Harold Arlen standard "Get Happy."
Pokey LaFarge and his backing band The South City Three make their first appearance on Mountain Stage, recorded live at the Paramount Theater in the border town of Bristol, Tenn./Va., in partnership with the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance. Hailing from St. Louis, LaFarge mixes the sounds of a bygone era: early string-band music, ragtime, country blues and Western swing.
Murhaballadeja features a striking photo on the cover: Two beefy, big-jawed men with cruel eyes are in prison garb, shackled with heavy chains at the neck, wrists, knees and feet. Turns out they're legendary 19th century murderers from Finland. These are the kinds of characters you'll find in a collection of murder ballads from Kimmo Pohjonen.
There are lots and lots of jazz greats with November b'days.
For example, and in no particular order: Charlie Mariano. George Cables. Teddy Wilson. Paul Desmond. Etta Jones. Gigi Gryce. Coleman Hawkins. Kevin Eubanks. Don Byron. Eddie Condon. June Chistry (see LP cover herewith, btw). Hampton Hawes. Roswell Rudd. Don Cherry. Mose Allison. Sam Jones. Chris Connor. Ellis Marsalis. Roger Kellaway. Phil Woods. Kurt Elling. Serge Chaloff. Al Cohn. Maria Schneider. Lyle Mays. Scott Joplin.